The Washington Post followed up on its big investigation into congressional earmarks with a report Wednesday that found some legislators were directing government funds to organizations at which they had family on staff, which turns out to be is perfectly legal. A university in Texas, a Pentagon program, and a Washington State environmental group each received funding and were among the organizations where family members of legislators worked as directors.
It has every appearance of corrupt nepotism, but as The Post pointed out, the funding decisions weren't made in secret, and there's no law to prevent them. "Several of the cases have received previous media attention, raised by local newspapers or campaign opponents," The Post reported, and all of them came from public records and federal disclosure forms. As long as the family members don't benefit directly, there's nothing in the law to stop these kinds of funding decisions -- though it seems some members of congress were pretty nervous about the appearance of conflict of interest: "In some cases, the lawmakers sought advice from congressional committees assigned to examine possible conflicts on Capitol Hill. The panels informed them that the practice of earmarking money to the workplaces of relatives is permissible, as long as tax dollars are not going directly to or solely benefiting their husbands, wives, sons or daughters."